- Museum number
The Punishment of the Slothful, study for a fresco; with tumbling male figures being forced down into the inferno with pitchforks, a bear attacking a figure at left and two horned figures supporting a book above
Pen and brown ink, with grey-brown wash and red chalk, over graphite, on three sheets conjoined
- Production date
Height: 483 millimetres
Width: 753 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The relevant section of the fresco in the cupola of Florence cathedral is illustrated in Acidini Luchinat, II, p. 92, fig. 52
Lit: J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, Artists working in Rome', London, 1983, no. 306; C. Acidini Luchinat, 'Taddeo e Federico Zuccari, fratelli pittori del cinquecento', Milan, 1998, II, p. 118, n. 83
Gere & Pouncey 1983
When acquired in 1862, 1862,1011.186; 1862,1011.188-191 and 1862,1011.187 were attributed to Frans Floris. A.M. Hind was the first to attribute them to Federico Zuccaro and to observe their connection with the outermost of the five concentric zones representing the Last Judgement in the interior of the octagonal cupola of Florence Cathedral. The programme of the decoration was devised for Vasari by Vincenzo Borghini (printed by C. Guasti, 'La Cupola di Santa Maria del Fiore', Florence, 1857, pp. 132ff.; see also the diagram in Vasari-Milanesi, viii, pp. 224f.) vertically in terms of the eight faces of the Cupola, each of which forms a complete unit, and horizontally in terms of five concentric zones. When Vasari died, on 27 June 1574, the decoration was unfinished. In October of the following year negotiations with Federico Zuccaro for its completion were under way; he was established in Florence by the beginning of November 1575 when his enrolment as a member of the Accademia del Disegno is recorded (see 'Paragone' 205 (1967), p. 47 and Körte, p. 74). According to Agostino Lapini's contemporary 'Diario Fiorentino' (ed. G.O. Corazzini, Florence, 1900, pp. 193 and 201), Federico began the execution of the paintings on 30 August 1576, and the Cupola was unveiled on 19 August 1579.
Apart from the E face, the outermost zone represents in the foreground demons casting the damned into Hell and in the background angels conducting the blessed to Paradise, and is entirely the work of Federico (see 1953,0731.48 for a discussion of his and Vasari's respective shares in the decoration). He followed Vincenzo Borghini's plan of representing one of the Deadly Sins, typified by an appropriate animal, on each of these seven faces. Raffaello Borghini, in his detailed contemporary description of the Cupola ('II Riposo', pp. 65ff.), and G. Richa ('Notizie istoriale della chiese fiorentine', Florence, vi, 1757, pp. 159ff), whose description is based on Borghini's, enumerate the faces in the following order and identify the seven Sins and their attributes: 1 (E face); no Sin, but allegorical figures of 'Time', 'Death', etc.; 2 (NE face): 'Envy', a hydra; 3 (SE face): 'Wrath', a bear; 4 (N face): 'Sloth', a camel; 5 (S face): 'Gluttony', Cerberus; 6 (NW face): 'Lust', a pig; 7 (SW face): 'Avarice', a toad; 8 (W face): 'Pride', Lucifer.
The Deadly Sins can be typified by a wide variety of animals (see M.W. Bloomfield, 'The Seven Deadly Sins', Michigan State College Press, 1952, pp. 245ff.), but the toad and the bear are the most common attributes of 'Avarice' and 'Wrath'; the animals identified by Raffaello Borghini as a camel and a pig are clearly intended by the artist to be an ass and a goat, the usual attributes of 'Sloth' and 'Lust'; the snake-headed hydra is an elaboration of the snake, which is a common attribute of 'Envy'; the substitution of Cerberus for the more usual attribute of 'Gluttony', a pig, is evidently an allusion to the 'sop to Cerberus' (cf. Aeneid, vi, 417 etc.); in an ecclesiastical context Lucifer is an obvious alternative to the usual peacock as a symbol of Pride.*1862,1011.186 is connected with the SE face ('Wrath'), 1862,1011.188 with the W face ('Pride'), 1862,1011.189 with the SW face ('Avarice'), 1862,1011.190 with the NW face ('Lust'), 1862,1011.191 with the N face ('Sloth'), and 1862,1011.187 with the NE face ('Envy'). Four of them, 1862,1011.186; 1862,1011.188; 1862,1011.189 and 1862,1011.190, are clearly 'en suite': they correspond closely with the finished paintings in the poses and relative positions of the figures and are identical in degree of finish and in their technique of brown ink and wash with red wash used to indicate the glow of Hell fire. 1862,1011.191 is rougher and more rapid in execution, with red chalk used instead of red wash. It also differs from the corresponding painting in the position of some of the figures on the r.-hand side. This drawing is undoubtedly from the hand of Federico himself, as also, in our opinion, are the four 'en suite' [referred to above, in spite of their different technique
and more careful finish: that they must form part of the preparatory material is further shown by the fact that the animal in 1862,1011.191, a drawing related in composition to 'Sloth' on the N face, is not, as in the painting, an ass, but a bear - the symbol of 'Wrath'; and that, conversely, the animal in 1862,1011.186, corresponding closely though this drawing does with the SE face ('Wrath'), is not a bear but an ass - the symbol of 'Sloth'. (See note on 1953,0731.48 below for other similar discrepancies.) 1862,1011.187, connected with the NE face ('Envy'), stands apart from the others both in style and technique. Though not by Federico himself, it is evidently a product of his studio.
Closely connected with these drawings is a group of five in the Albertina, homogeneous in technique and all from Federico's own hand: 14332 (S.V. 84), 14333 (S.V. 85) and 14338 (S.V. 83) correspond exactly with 1862,1011.190, 1862,1011.189 and 1862,1011.186 respectively. Albertina 14335 (S.V. 87) corresponds not with 1862,1011.191 but with the finished painting, except that the animal is still a bear and not, as in the painting, an ass. The ass, on the other hand, appears in Albertina 14338 as in 1862,1011.186. The fifth drawing in the Albertina series (14331; S.V. 86) corresponds with 'Gluttony', on the S face.
* Vincenzo Borghini suggested the following animals in the programme which he devised for Vasari: 'Envy', "una vipera o simile"; 'Wrath', "orso o cane"; 'Sloth', "asino"; 'Gluttony', "porco"; 'Avarice', "botta [a toad] o lupo"; 'Lust', "lonza [a panther - a sense of the word peculiar to Dante] o caprone"; 'Pride', "antico serpente o ver dracone". He proposed that they should be represented as gigantic heads with open mouths in the act of devouring the damned (cf. the drawing by Vasari in the Louvre: 2146, repr. 'Giorgio Vasari, dessinateur et collectionneur', Musée du Louvre, 1965, no. 57, pl. xi).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number